How to Host a Perfect New Zealand 'Barbie' (Barbecue)

Kebabs and Vegetables Cooked on a New Zealand Barbecue | © Henry Burrows/Flickr
Kebabs and Vegetables Cooked on a New Zealand Barbecue | © Henry Burrows/Flickr
Photo of Thalita Alves
30 October 2017

As the summer sizzles on New Zealand’s shores, Kiwis start plating up their favourite open-air tradition. Whether you want to call it a ‘barbie’, barbecue or BBQ, this classic culinary treat epitomises the country’s all-round chilled-out nature. Here’s how the locals go about hosting their ideal gathering.

Choose your location

Traditionally, a BBQ will be hosted in a casual, home-bound setting. But the beauty of the New Zealand barbecue is that it’s quite flexible on location. If you don’t have the accessories in your backyard or apartment balcony (yes, some urban flats do have ’em), just find yourself a local park with a lots of picnic facilities, which will usually have its own grills available for public use. For those wanting to relish the local coastlines, some beaches will have public barbecues on-site as well. And if you’re keen on camping around the country, investing in a portable gas barbecue is always another option.

Kebabs and Vegetables Cooked on a New Zealand Barbecue | © Henry Burrows/Flickr

Tell your guests to ‘bring a plate’

The best ‘barbies’ are the ones where everybody pitches in. Potluck meals are a bit of a Kiwi speciality, and guests will be more than happy to bring a plate to a special occasion. In a BBQ setting, this often means bringing salads, nibbles or desserts. The host is usually in charge of the meat, and some might even ‘assign’ certain dishes for guests to bring depending on group size.

BBQ Steak | © missbossy/Flickr

Make sure you have these Kiwi BBQ food staples

So what do you actually cook on a typical Kiwi barbie? Red meat is the obvious answer, but a BBQ can also include chicken, bacon, seafood, char-grilled veges, varied sauces, and ‘gourmet’ options like a roasted leg of lamb. Beer and wine are the usual drink accompaniments on the menu.

For a truly authentic experience, make sure to bring these essential items to the table:


Steak is always a winner in New Zealand barbecues. Choose a nice thick cut, marinade it in advance, bring it to room temperature and oil it before cooking on the preheated grill. It’s that simple.

Sausages (aka, ‘bangers’)

Another Kiwi classic that shouldn’t be left out. While steaks only rely on a single turn (they’ll get rubbery otherwise), sausages need to be rotated regularly to ensure they’re cooked evenly.

Sausage, Chicken and Lamb on a Barbecue | © Alpha/Flickr

White bread and tomato sauce on the side

These are to accompany your sausages. To stay true to tradition, make sure your tomato sauce is of the Wattie’s variety.


The beauty of kebabs is that they can be meaty or vegetarian according to taste — it’s one of the best options for making a BBQ all-inclusive. Some might even mix and match with meats and veggies on a skewer.

Corn on the cob

Char-grilled corn on the cob is an inexpensive, tasty and healthy option that’s loved by many. No butter is needed, the corn will be quite juicy on its own — eat it hot off the grill.

Potato salad

Summer is as much salad season as it is a BBQ one. And in many potluck gatherings — but especially ‘barbies’ — potato salad tends to be the most popular option. Just boil some potatoes, add whatever extras you might be craving, let everything cool and finish things off with a generous coating of mayonnaise.

Potato Salad | © Pixabay

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